Thursday, July 26, 2007

Ask Away!

by Joyce Tremel

We had to reschedule a few blog posts this week, so I volunteered to fill in today. I didn't have anything prepared, so I thought I'd just open it up to everyone.

Do you have a question about police work? Ask away! Come to think of it, ask anything of any of our bloggers--we have knowledgeable people in a lot of different areas: law enforcement, psychology, horses, editing, well, you get the idea. If you have a question, we'll try to answer it.

Just stay away from the what-are-you-wearing questions.

30 comments:

Lee Lofland said...

Okay, here's a question. We're always hearing on the news that crime is either up or down. Where do those stats come from? And what the heck does the UCR in UCR report stand for?

(Okay, I know the answers, but not everyone does).

Joyce said...

I wrote a blog on statistics earlier in the year (before you started hanging out with us, Lee). It tells all about UCRs, etc. Here's the link if anyone wants to take a look: http://workingstiffs.blogspot.com/2007/01/statistics.html

Speaking of statistic, I just read that homicides in Allegheny County are up 36% so far this year--well above the previous record set in 2003. http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/cityregion/s_518997.html

Lee Lofland said...

Thanks. As usual, I'm late.

Articles like the one you just mentioned are what made me think about this. Do you think some departments skew those numbers to make their crime rates seem lower? Who has the final peek at your stats before they're sent in? Is it possible to alter the numbers?

brenda roger said...

This is fun Joyce. I have a question about rank. How long does it take to become a detective? If you have certain trainging, can you be fast-tracked to detective status or do all police officers start at the bottom?

Joyce said...

Lee, in our department, it would be pretty hard to skew the statistics. I don't know about other places. I type the police reports into the computer and once a month the admin asst runs the UCR report directly from this same computer program (our software is called "The Informer". She gives this report to the Lt. who forwards it online into the FBI reporting system.

No one I know is ambitious enough to want to skew anything. There are too many safeguards in place, anyway. We get audited by the State Police and the feds every once in awhile.

Gina said...

What are you wearing?

Sorry, but that's like telling somebody not to think about an elephant. I couldn't help myself. Here's my real question:

We all know to call 911 when a someone is breaking into our homes or shooting passersby. What is the proper way to report other less immediate kinds of crimes like identity theft or fraud? Should we call the local police? FBI? Someone else?

Joyce said...

I knew someone was bound to ask!

Most PDs have a non-emergency number to call for general reports. However, in Shaler we tell people that if it's not 8:30 to 4:30 Monday through Friday, there won't be anyone in the office to answer the phone (that would be me).

Allegheny County dispatch (which handles all calls except for the City of Pgh) has a non-emergency number to call instead of 911, but the calls are still answered by the 911 operators, so it doesn't really matter. If you want to report ANY kind of crime around here, just call 911.

FYI, for identity theft, all we do is take the report. We don't usually investigate. You get referred to the feds.

Lee Lofland said...

Brenda - Normally, the unwritten rule of thumb regarding the length of time it takes an officer to make detective is five years or longer (usually longer, and interestingly, most officers don't consider their peers to be totally useful as officers until they've been on the job for at least five years), but, as everything else in law-enforcement, it depends on the department and sometimes the performance of the individual officer seeking the position.

Size does matter in this instance. Smaller departments usually have more flexible operating procedures, and not all police jobs are civil service jobs.

In the case of a sheriffs office, the sheriff is king or queen supreme and can usually promote whomever he or she pleases. This is especially true when members of the sheriff's immediate family work for the department.

Gina - Each department has a non-emergency phone number for reporting routine complaints; however, if someone is shooting or breaking into your home that's not routine, and you should call 911.

Non-emergencies are things like when someone steals a tomato plant from your garden or when you suddenly realize that dear old Uncle Joe's cremation urn is missing from the fireplace mantle.

ramona said...

I have a question. It's about "verbal judo." Is this a legit or useful way to communicate, a mind game, a talking technique, or a waste of time that nobody uses in real situations?

Joyce said...

Hi Ramona!

I've heard the term verbal judo before, but I'm not really sure what it means.

Maybe Lee knows?

Kristine said...

Here's my question...

Is it possible in today's day and age to send someone an e-mail and a cell phone text message and have them both be untraceable?

Joyce said...

Kristine, the answer is no. Text messages were how investigators first discovered the link between Donna Moonda and her lover. E-mails are easily traced. That's why experts say never email something from work that you don't want your boss to see. Everything gets stored on the server.

Lee Lofland said...

I'm not sure about the verbal judo thing, either. Could you give an example?

Kristine, Joyce is absolutely correct. Shoot, thanks to GPS you can't even drive in your car these days without the government knowing your every move, if they want/need to. In fact, in cars equipped with voice services, such as OnStar, they can even listen to your in-car conversations, with the proper warrants of course...unless they suspect you're a terrorist, then thanks to the Patriot Act they don't even need the warrant).

So I suggest you be vewy, vewy, quiet...

Joyce said...

In addition to GPS, cars now have black boxes like planes do. The accident investigator will now know exactly how fast you were going when you slammed into that tree before he even has to do all those physics calculations.

Gina said...

OK, another question:

There was a news report last night about a guy stealing purses out of cars at day care centers that said he'd cashed thousands of dollars worth of stolen checks in local banks. They were showing a bank security camera photo to see if anyone recognizes him.

When I go to the bank where all my pay checks get deposited, and where I've had a savings account and home equity loan for years, they won't even give me $5 back from a check I'm depositing unless I show identification. How's he cashing thousands of dollars worth of stolen checks without them knowing who he is?

Lee Lofland said...

Hey, how do we know you're the real Gina?? :)

Joyce said...

Ramona just emailed me with this. For some reason, blogger wouldn't let her comment again.

She said: "I first saw the verbal judo reference in an Allison Gaylin mystery. Apparently, it's a course or seminar for law enforcement, to train how to talk down a situation or more effectively persuade people to cooperate. I was interested from a writer's POV, but the book contains info on how to apply IRL, i.e. when attempting communication with teenagers. I wondered if anyone was familiar."

Joyce said...

Gina, I don't have the answer to that one. Any bankers here?

Joyce said...

Ramona, I'll ask the Lt. at work tomorrow and see what he knows about verbal judo.

Lee Lofland said...

I'll ask Alison, too. In fact, I just sent her a message. I'm curious to see what she has to say.

AlisonGaylin said...

Hi Lee and Ramona and everybody! Re: Verbal judo. I first heard about the term because a friend's brother -- who is in law enforcement in Michigan -- taught a course on it at the Academy there. It is basically a very cool way of describing talking techniques used to psychologically disarm a suspect, talk someone "off the ledge," etc. When my friend told me about verbal judo, I fell in love with the phrase, the idea. So much so that I *had* to put it in my book, HIDE YOUR EYES. (By the way, Ramona, this same friend's teenage daughter is named Amanda Patton. I'm immortalizing her whole family in my books!)

ramona said...

I'm trying again. Thanks for posting my question, Joyce.

Thanks for the info, Allison. That scene worked really well in the book, which is why I remembered it.

There's a website, something like verbaljudo.com that I checked out. I've been reading the book. The basic premise is/are, Remain Calm, Be Polite, and swallow all of the things you REALLY want to say...

Lee Lofland said...

Thanks Alison!

Well, that's a new term for me and I was in the business for 20 years. It's funny how the name of things change to suit the times. We called it, "Talking them (the suspect) down."

jody said...

According to my 'source' (AKA Officer Deb) Verbal Judo is a way of talking down a situation and, according to Deb, it's a required class. However, the only time it would ever be used in a real-life scenario is if there's a witness with a video camera. Her example was this; 1)Verbal Judo - "Calm down, Sir. We can discuss other options." 2) Real Life - "Shut the f*** up and get on the ground, Asshole."

Lee Lofland said...

This verbal judo thing was a required thing even during my time in the police academy. We did a lot of role playing and this was one of the scenarios.

I get tickled talking about using the name verbal judo since I didn't know what it meant. It's funny to me because the tactic has been around since...well, since forever, just under different names. What really makes me laugh is that I was a police academy instructor and instructor trainer for years. I taught several subjects including defensive tactics and officer survival techniques. You'll never guess what one of my topics was...Talking down suspects (hostage situations, stand-offs, etc.). Go figure...

Hey, thanks for dropping in Alison.

Joyce said...

Yes, Jody. That's usually the way I hear it described!

Joyce said...

Yes, thanks Alison!

Kristine said...

Thanks for the answer to my question, Joyce and Lee. I guess I should clarify that I'm purely asking in regards to my fictional plot...nothing more...(wink).

Kristine said...

Thanks for stopping by, Alison!
I'm a big fan of your books.

Joyce said...

Don't worry, Kristine. I won't tell.